What are mental health problems?

In many ways, mental health is just like physical health: everybody has it and we need to take care of it. Good mental health means being generally able to think, feel and react in the ways that you need and want to live your life. But if you go through a period of poor mental health you might find the ways you're frequently thinking, feeling or reacting become difficult, or even impossible, to cope with. This can feel just as bad as a physical illness, or even worse. Experiencing a mental health problem is often upsetting, confusing and frightening – particularly at first. If you become unwell, you may feel that it's a sign of weakness, or that you are 'losing your mind'. These fears are often reinforced by the negative (and often unrealistic) way that people experiencing mental health problems are shown on TV, in films and by the media. This may stop you from talking about your problems, or seeking help. This, in turn, is likely to increase your distress and sense of isolation.
However, in reality, mental health problems are a common human experience. Mental health problems affect around one in four people in any given year. Most people know someone who has experienced a mental health problem. They can happen to all kinds of people from all walks of life. They range from common problems, such as depression and anxiety, to rarer problems such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Different perspectives on mental health and mental illness.

There are various approaches to mental health and mental illness around the world. Most health professionals in the UK agree on a similar set of clinical diagnoses and treatments for mental health problems. However, not everyone finds it helpful to think about their mental health this way. Depending on your traditions and beliefs you might have different ideas about how best to cope. In many cultures, emotional wellbeing is closely associated with religious or spiritual life. And your difficult experiences may be just one part of how you understand your identity overall. I use the phrase ‘mental health problems’. But you might be more familiar with terms such as ‘poor emotional health’, ‘overloaded’, ‘burnt out’ or ‘overwhelmed’. Or you may feel that terms such as ‘mental illness’ or ‘mental health issues’ describe your experiences better, or are easier to explain to other people in your life. However you understand your own experiences, and whatever terms you prefer to use.

What types are there?

There are many different mental health problems. Some of them have similar symptoms, so you may experience the symptoms of more than one mental health problem, or be given several diagnoses at once. Or you might not have any particular diagnosis, but still be finding things very difficult. Everyone’s experience is different and can change at different times. This page provides few types of mental health problems:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Phobias
  • Eating problems
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Psychosis
  • Paranoia
  • Personality disorders